Thanks, Barney the Barn Owl | Faithful Living

He arrived under the arm of a local game warden and I will never forget the anticipation we felt as he placed the immature barn owl on the back of a chair in our kitchen.

Somehow separated from his mother and siblings before being “rescued” by a well-intentioned wildlife lover, the owl did not move a muscle as we pondered his rotten luck and our good fortune to have him in our midst.

In spite of his illegal capture, he was healthy yet solidly imprinted on humans. He was unaware that in the wild he would be a skilled hunter, able to locate prey by sound alone, capturing a mouse in complete darkness or hidden by vegetation or snow.

As we learned details about this fine young owl he began to investigate our home by moving his head. That fall we were the parents of young children and he was particularly enchanted with their toys, scattered across the living room carpet. Because he had been handled by humans, he was calm and his trust grew quickly. In short order he made the top of our refrigerator his perch of choice and soundlessly flew around the house, grabbing toys with his talons and gently mouthing them with his beak.

He became the coolest pet on the block and we made the most of his notoriety because of his gentleness. As permitted transitional “rehabbers,” we understood that he would remain under our care until an educational wildlife facility could be located.

I think of Barney the Barn Owl every autumn when the wind grows chilly and the leaves begin to fall. When our golden lab moves across the lawn with his nose to the ground. When hot coffee fills mugs and big plans are made over the phone. When the men in my family slip out of warm beds and willingly venture into the cold and rain to enjoy the hunt, some manly conversation and watch nature in action.

“Come see Jack swim after a duck,” is my yearly invitation. But the wilderness does not tug at my soul in that way. I prefer to celebrate autumn by decorating indoors, lighting candles and cooking stews and breads and pumpkin pie.

In due time permanent handlers were located and we bid Barney, a gentle and handsome specimen of a barn owl, goodbye. He spent the remainder of his life traveling to schools filled with fascinated children.

During autumn my faith surrounds me like a comforter and pillow, strategically placed beside a wood stove. It warms my soul and calms my questions. I find I can sit and enjoy the mysteries of nature without any need to figure it all out. I can watch the birds leave and find contentment in wondering about their secret destinations.

I can pin fallen leaves on my bulletin board and make muffins for the hunters when they return to sit at the table, tell their stories and sip their coffee. And I can stop and praise God for these powerful reminders of what a magnificent creator He truly is.


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